CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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TAKE A GOOD LOOK!

“Lord, have you taken a good look at my troubles lately?”  Do we find ourselves crying out to God in this way when we are frustrated beyond what we think we can handle?  We still love God, still believe in God and even trust God but we, like the Psalmist, feel the need to shout, “Hey God, over here, take a good look at what is going on in MY life—a little help here…”  For me, when I come to the end of the rope I have been clinging to, come to the tail end of the last knot to hang on to with my overthinking, God says, “Hey, take a good at Me”.  “Look up at Me”.  “Follow Me”.  Jesus, His Son and our Advocate to the Father, reminds me through His Holy Spirit, “I am the Way, Truth and Life.”  The Spirit living in us bring peace in trouble and says, “take a good look in My direction, turning neither left or right.”  “Focus on my love for you.”  “Know I AM with you always, through good times and bad.”

Look for Strength in the Journey

Have you noticed that the songwriter becomes more urgent as he draws near the end of Psalm 119? We are coming to the end of the Hebrew alphabet, but his trials would continue, and he needed the help of the Lord. The last three stanzas all speak of persecution and trials, yet the writer still trusted the Lord. 

The key phrase in this stanza is “give me back my life”.  In other words, lift me up, and keep me going. He had prayed this prayer before, and the Lord had answered. The psalmist not only prayed but also gave reasons why the Lord should answer:

You are my Redeemer!  (Jesus)  In our troubles, it is comforting to know that the Son of God intercedes for us, hears our prayers, and meets our needs.

You are Merciful!  If we prayed on the basis of our own merit, God could never answer, but we come to the Father in the name of the Son and with the help of the Spirit. God in His grace gives us what we do not deserve. In His mercy He does not give us what we do deserve. The psalmist was still disgusted with the way the unbelievers lived, but their bad example did not change his own convictions.

Your Word can be Trusted! “The sum of Your word is truth”, and this means all of it can be trusted. The totality of God’s written revelation is not just true–it is Truth. To love the Word is to obey it, and to obey it is to receive life from it. 

The Bible is not a magic book that conveys divine life to anyone who picks it up and reads it. God’s living Word communicates His life and power to those who read it, meditate on it, and obey it because they love God and His Word. When Jesus raised the dead, it was through speaking the Word (Luke 7:11-17), and His Word gives us life today when we find ourselves in the dust trying to get back up. 

Take a good look at the Savior and follow Him as Lord. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 20 – Psalm 119, The Message

153-160 Take a good look at my trouble, and help me—
    I haven’t forgotten your revelation.
Take my side and get me out of this;
    give me back my life, just as you promised.
“Salvation” is only gibberish to the wicked
    because they’ve never looked it up in your dictionary.
Your mercies, God, run into the billions;
    following your guidelines, revive me.
My antagonists are too many to count,
    but I don’t swerve from the directions you gave.
I took one look at the quitters and was filled with loathing;
    they walked away from your promises so casually!
Take note of how I love what you tell me;
    out of your life of love, prolong my life.
Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth.
    Your righteous decisions are eternal.

TRUTH: “Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth. Your righteous decisions are eternal.”

Proverb 3:5-6, The Message

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.

WISDOM:  Trust God.  Look and Listen for God.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Lord, God of all and in all, I look to you for redemption with your divine mercy and grace.  Your love is amazing, relentless, unconditional and unchanging in a changing fickle world.  Thank you for loving me the way you do through good times and bad, over hills and in the valleys, on the brief journey here on earth.  Thank you for listening, healing, providing and protecting.  Thank you for saving my soul.  I will always look to You each morning.  You are my life.  You are my hope.  I trust in You alone.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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PRAYER – BASIC TRAINING

I learned a long time ago that it was helpful for me to write down my prayers to God, my Father, each day.  This journal exercise keeps me focused on what I want to say to God without wondering in the “weeds” of whatever thoughts come to my unfocused mind.  My attention span is short, very short, so I do this to stay focused on God and less on me and what I want.  When I write the words down, it is almost as if I am shouting, “God, help me!” 

So, I totally understand the thinking of the Psalmist in this passage today which is his prayer to God.  He is anxiously asking, like me many times, for answers to his troubles, repentance for his soul with clarity for God’s will be done minus the confusion of this world’s thinking.  We get it, don’t we?  The writer prayed throughout this entire psalm, but in these verses, he concentrated on prayer and cried out to God day and night. From his experience, we receive some basic instructions about effective prayer.

Pray wholeHEARTedly

 We must seek God with our whole hearts and obey Him with our whole hearts. “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart” (John Bunyan).

In the Old Testament sanctuary, the golden altar of incense represented intercessory prayer (Ex. 30:1-10). The special incense was burned on the altar, and the fragrant smoke rising heavenward pictured prayer going up to the Lord. The devotion of the heart is what “ignites” our prayers and enables us to present our requests to the Lord. The phrase “and I will keep” may be translated “that I may keep.” The psalmist was not bargaining with God (“Answer my prayers and I will obey You”) but dedicating himself to God to obey Him no matter how He answered his prayers.  “God!  Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”  This is a prayer that asks for the Holy Spirit to bring clarity to what God wants.  We know that what God wants for us is always best.

Pray without ceasing

Two important elements of effective, reverent prayer are involved here. The first is that we constantly cultivate an attitude of prayer and remain in communion with the Lord all day long and into the night.  We consistently have him on “speaker” as if he were speaking to us on our mobile phones so that nothing comes between the Father and us!

The second element in effective prayer is the Word of God, for apart from God’s Word, we cannot know God’s will. Each verse in this passage mentions the Scriptures and the writer’s devotion to God’s Word. We must balance the Word and prayer in our devotional lives and ministry.  The spiritual leaders in the early church gave themselves to prayer and the Word (Acts 6:4). When we meditate on the Word, the Father speaks to us; and when we pray, we speak to the Father. We need both instruction and intercession if we are to be balanced children of God.  We all seek “balance” in this life, right?

Pray as an act of love

This passage combines both love and law, for if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments. Too often we think of prayer as an emergency measure, rushing into God’s presence and crying for help. But what would you think of children who spoke to their parents only when they needed something? Prayer is more than asking; prayer is loving. 

If we love the Word of God, we must also love the God of the Word and express that love to Him. To tell Him we love Him only because we want to receive something is to practice prayer on a juvenile level. When we share our love with the Lord, we receive new life from Him.

Pray with your eyes open

As he prayed, the psalmist saw his enemies drawing near, so he asked for God to draw near to help him. The familiar phrase “watch and pray” goes back to when Nehemiah was leading the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and restoring the gates. The enemy did not want the Holy City to be rebuilt, so they used fear, deceit, and every kind of ruse to hinder the work. What was Nehemiah’s defense? “Nevertheless, we made our prayer to our God, and because of them [the enemy] we set a watch against them day and night.”

Jesus (Matt. 26:41; Mark 13:33), Paul (Col. 4:2), and Peter (1 Peter 4:7) commanded God’s people to “watch and pray,” to be on guard and pray with intelligence and alertness. We are soldiers in a battle and we dare not go to sleep while on duty!

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 19 – Psalm 119, The Message

145-152 I call out at the top of my lungs,
    “God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me
    so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before sunrise,
    crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night,
    prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me;
    in your justice, God, keep me alive.
As those out to get me come closer and closer,
    they go farther and farther from the truth you reveal;
But you’re the closest of all to me, God,
    and all your judgments true.
I’ve known all along from the evidence of your words
    that you meant them to last forever.

TRUTH:  Prayerfully ponder God’s promises as He restores the joy of His salvation in our hearts, minds and souls.  God never changes, backs away or backs down.  He never gives up on us!  God is forever.  God is the One and Only we stay in close communication with for all of life.

Proverb 8:34-35, The Message

WISDOM: “Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work. When you find me, you find life, real life, to say nothing of God’s good pleasure.”

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for bending low to hear our prayers to You.  Hallowed be Your Name!  May Your Kingdom come and reign in us and your glory seen all around us and give you praise!  May Your Will be done in every detail of our lives here on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us your daily manna, all we need to know, for today’s part of a life long journey with You.  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who hurt or offend us.  Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from all evil and evil’s schemes to distract us from you.  Nothing is too hard for you.  My hope and life is in You.  I love you, Lord with all that is in me.  To YOU be all glory, honor and praise forevermore.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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ALWAYS PERFECTLY RIGHT

As a young adult, nothing exasperated me more than to find out at the end of a challenging task or situation that didn’t go well, to realize that what momma said to do in the first place was the right way.  She had an uncanny way of being right.  She wasn’t perfect but she tried to be for the sake of her family.  I seemed to be consistently compelled to try my own way because she also taught me to be independent, or maybe that is just in my created by God mix of genes.  Mom didn’t have to say, “I told you so…” when things didn’t go well because I could feel the aura and see the look that explicitly said it all. 

Potters Hands

Before doing anything significant today, I can still hear Mom’s words of advice.  “Have you thought about…” because that was the way she would begin her advice.   Mom raised me with “warning labels”.  (Smiling) I learned, years later, that her wisdom came from doing it wrong herself until she, too, learned to do things God’s Way.  Experience is a great teacher when we learn from our mistakes.

God also has warning labels for us to consider as we live Life to the full in His ways.  His Word is full of “Have you thought this through and considered My way?”  However God is driven by thoughts greater than ours.  God’s Ways are driven by extreme, unconditional love.  His Way is always right and good for us because of this relentless love.  God is perfect, so His ways are perfect.  We are not perfect.  We are not expected to be perfect.  So, God, in His love for us, gave us The Way to be perfectly forgiven

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

God knows we don’t have the ability to think or behave exactly like He does so He gives us His Word to refer to and be fed from daily…like manna from heaven.  God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

Yes, He is God…and we are not.  God’s ways are perfect, so why not trust Him and cry out (pray) for HIS wisdom (skills for living life in His ways), insight and understanding before doing anything?  Why?  The Psalmist tells us exactly why; 

“You ARE right and you DO right, God; Your decisions are right on target.”

We live life well when we follow God’s perfect ways as closely as our imperfect lives can.  We live well knowing God wants what is best for us.  He made us.  He is with us.  He loves us more than anyone on earth has the ability to love.  He protects us.  He nourishes us.  He provides what He knows we need when we need it.  All this and more, because God knows us better than we know ourselves, He created us.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
  Psalm 139:13-16, NIV

Why trust anyone else?  God is always perfectly right!

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 18, Psalm 119, The Message

137-144 You are right and you do right, God;
    your decisions are right on target.
You rightly instruct us in how to live
    ever faithful to you.
My rivals nearly did me in,
    they persistently ignored your commandments.
Your promise has been tested through and through,
    and I, your servant, love it dearly.
I’m too young to be important,
    but I don’t forget what you tell me.
Your righteousness is eternally right,
    your revelation is the only truth.
Even though troubles came down on me hard,
    your commands always gave me delight.
The way you tell me to live is always right;
    help me understand it so I can live to the fullest.

TRUTH:  The way God tells us to live is ALWAYS right.  Always.

Proverb 3:5-8, NIV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

WISDOM:  Trust God with all that is in you.  Submit and surrender to God.

Abba, Father,

It’s hard for us to give up our independence for dependency on You but we find that your way is always the right way.  Your love is always to way to real, abundant living.  Thank you for your grace and mercy, lessons learned, with more growing and maturing to do until we meet you face to face.  You are such a loving and caring Father.  Thank you for bending down to listen to our prayers for your wisdom, insight and understanding for living this life here until we get there.  Thank you for your perfect forgiveness for our imperfect lives.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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GOD SPEAKS MIRACLE WORDS INTO OUR LIVES

God said, “Let there be Light!”  And there was Light.  And it was good and perfect.  All God says and does is Good, Right and Perfect.  “How could we help but obey?”  Centuries later, God sent His Son to be Light in the dark.  This darkness was caused by selfish sin, forgetting about Him and turning inward to self-survival.  The Psalmist is crying out to God for help.  He sings while crying a river of tears for a world gone to self without God. 

The Singer remains with God, knowing God will teach him, help him, provide for his needs and give him courage in the world he is living with hate all around him.  “Steady my steps with your Word of promise”, he prays, “so nothing gets the best of me”.  What a great prayer to pray today, right?

Pray this psalm as if you wrote it to God.  I have and will probably pray this prayer all day long today.

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 17 – Psalm 119, The Message

129-136 Every word you give me is a miracle word—
    how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
    let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
    I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
    as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
    so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
    so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
    teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
    because nobody’s living by your book!

TRUTH:  God will smile on those who humbly come to him with a desire to learn and mature in His character traits, wanting what He wants—which is all that is His best for us!

Proverb 2, The Message

1-5 Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

WISDOM: “Set your heart”, “Tune your ears” to wisdom, insight and understanding from God who knows best.

Abba, Father,

You are always at work in our lives and in the lives of all who believe and follow You.  Thank you for Your Holy Presence.  Thank you for the wisdom you give when we ask.  Thank you for helping us understand your ways so that we can follow obediently without reserve.  Thank you for listening to our cries for help and then providing the care and teaching we need.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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I AM THE WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE

The Lord is our Assurance.  No matter how many promises we might make to the Lord, we can never fulfill them. But in His death on the cross, Jesus has paid the debt for us, and in His ministry of intercession at the throne in heaven, He is our living, blessed assurance. As long as He lives, our salvation is secure, and He lives by “the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16). So, no matter what people do to us and no matter how we feel, our blessed assurance is secure and we remain in the family of God. Jesus has taken the responsibility for our salvation, and He will never fail.  This is blessed assurance.  This is true justice.  Jesus is the Way.

The Lord is our Master (vv. 123-125). Whenever people attack us, they also attack the Lord, for we belong to Him. When Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians on earth, He also persecuted their Lord in heaven (Acts 9:1-5). God cares for His servants. He does not always prevent us from being oppressed, but He always has a good reason for permitting it to happen. He is a loving Master who teaches us His will and gives us the discernment we need to handle the problems of life. Even more, He gives us promises that we can claim and thereby find the strength and wisdom we need. God’s servants do not live by explanations; they live by promises.  Jesus is the Truth.

The Lord is the Final Judge (vv. 126-128). In our impatience, we sometimes want God to work immediately and set everything right, but His ways and times are not always the same as ours. Faith and patience go together (Heb. 6:12), and God’s delays are not God’s denials. The day will come when the truth will be revealed and sin will be judged; meanwhile, instead of complaining about what we have paid or lost, let us rejoice in the wealth that we have in God’s Word, wealth that can never be taken from us. All of God’s precepts concerning all things are always right, so we can depend on the Scriptures and have the guidance that we need. If we love the Word, we will hate the wrong paths of sinners and stay away from them. We do not even put one foot on the path of the wicked (Prov. 1:15)!  We avoid the deceitful path that leads to death.  Jesus is Life!

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” –Jesus (John 14:6)

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 16 – Psalm 119

121-128 I stood up for justice and the right;
    don’t leave me to the mercy of my oppressors.
Take the side of your servant, good God;
    don’t let the godless take advantage of me.
I can’t keep my eyes open any longer, waiting for you
    to keep your promise to set everything right.
Let your love dictate how you deal with me;
    teach me from your textbook on life.
I’m your servant—help me understand what that means,
    the inner meaning of your instructions.
It’s time to act, God;
    they’ve made a shambles of your revelation!
Yea-Saying God, I love what you command,
    I love it better than gold and gemstones;
Yea-Saying God, I honor everything you tell me,
    I despise every deceitful detour.

TRUTH: “God, I honor everything you tell me, I despise every deceitful detour.”  Deceitful detours from the path God lays before us looks easy and delightful, tempting our senses but soon become hard, rocky, full of dangerous pitfalls that lead to death.  Taking the road God has for us isn’t easy either, but on this road, God takes us by the hand and walks with us, pointing out all the obstacles that cause us to stumble.  Both roads are hard, but I choose the path God chooses for me.  He knows what is best.  I choose the Way, Truth and Life.  I choose Jesus.

Proverbs 1, The Message

A Manual (Wisdom) for Living

1-6 These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
    David’s son, Israel’s king—
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
    to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
    for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
    and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
    still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
    the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Hallowed be Your Name.  Your Kingdom come and reign in us and all around us.  May Your Will be done in every detail of my life today as it is done in heaven.  Give us this day all YOU know we will need, what we need to avoid and what path to follow.  Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from all evil and evil’s schemes to bring us down and destroy us.  For you have all power, to you be all glory, honor and praise.  Nothing is too hard for you.  No one is like you.  You are the Way, Truth and Life!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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BUT I SAY UNTO YOU…

Our psalm today are words from a mind that seeks truth in a world of people who lie to get by.  Lies are always found out.  Lies are as destructive as physical blows.  Lies destroy relationships.  Lies are deception.  Satan is the “Father of lies”, so says the Word of God in warning to His people.  Lies are part of the arsenal used by evil to get us to avoid truth so we will be part of evil’s team.

God’s people added to His commandments with “laws” that give the priest man-produced power over those who were deemed “less than” they were.  The religious elite misused God’s Law, His Word to them, and turned Truth to lies.  But did evil win?  No!  Truth came down from heaven to set the world straight.  Truth is a Person.  His Name is Jesus. 

Many times, while speaking, Jesus would open his teaching statements with “You have heard it said, but I say to you…”  then Truth would be told, explained and understood with who God is, what He wants (which is always for our best life) with how He wants us to think and behave in this world.  Matthew 5: 27-28—is only part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and one in a series of examples he uses to emphasize the new dimension of spiritual awareness demonstrates:
 
“You have heard it said ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
 
In this and other passages with the same structure (“You have heard it said … but I say to you …”), Jesus seeks to move us from simple, fear-based obedience to the law upward to a higher dimension of spiritual awareness in relationship with God. This higher dimension does not abolish the law, but rather fulfils it (Matthew 5:17) by allowing us to understand the spiritual Truth of which the law is a temporal expression.

Jesus is Truth.  Satan is not.  Don’t get confused.  Think more like Jesus!

The Psalmist is seeking Truth in all of Life.  He finds it in quiet retreat with God.  “Stick with me and I’ll be all right; I’ll give total allegiance to your definitions of life”, sings the Psalmist.  I love this statement and I think God loves it, too.  Stick with me says God to us daily.  So, I’m sure when we ask Him to stick with us, He will!

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 15, Psalm 119, The Message

113-120 I hate the two-faced,
    but I love your clear-cut revelation.
You’re my place of quiet retreat;
    I wait for your Word to renew me.
Get out of my life, evildoers,
    so I can keep my God’s commands.
Take my side as you promised; I’ll live then for sure.
    Don’t disappoint all my grand hopes.
Stick with me and I’ll be all right;
    I’ll give total allegiance to your definitions of life.
Expose all who drift away from your sayings;
    their casual idolatry is lethal.
You reject earth’s wicked as so much rubbish;
    therefore I lovingly embrace everything you say.
I shiver in awe before you;
    your decisions leave me speechless with reverence.

TRUTH: “Expose all who drift away from your sayings; their casual idolatry is lethal.”  Jesus exposed the drifters and revealed the Truth…” but I say unto you…”  Pray that God would reveal the drifters of truth so we avoid falling for lies.

Proverb 12:22, The Message

“God can’t stomach liars; he loves the company of those who keep their word.”

WISDOM:  Know lies, avoid lying.  Seek Truth.  Follow Truth. Truth is Jesus.

Abba, Father in Heaven,

Thank you for revealing Truth this morning in this quiet time with You.  Thank you for speaking to my heart about the extreme importance of avoiding lies to get by for a moment.  You hate lying!  Lying is the tool of evil to destroy our relationship with You and those you have put in our lives!  Please continue to reveal the lies of evil placed in the hearts of people that surround me.  Remove all that offends you that is in me.  Help me to discern Truth and what is a lie.  Help me to be honest and full of Truth in my walk always.  And when I am not, correct me. 

In Jesus Name, Amen

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LIGHT WALKING

When our kids were young our “vacations” consisted of camping trips by various lakes of Oklahoma.  It was all fun and games, sunburn and laughter, until you had to get up in the middle of the night to take one or two of the kids to the bathroom.  With tent camping, you had to walk a dark path through the woods to the community bath house.  The kids, though sleepy with a pressing desire to get there quickly, would ask if they could hold the flashlight.  Sleepily, I would give in but I knew I would probably have to take back control of the light that guided us so we could get where we were going without injury!  Whoever held the flashlight wouldn’t hold it to the path for us to see where to walk, instead they would point it up or around at the trees, wondering what was in the woods in the dark.  After a few stumbles over rocks in the darkness, I would ask, “Are you ready for me to guide us with the light now?” 

After stumbling through the darkness of this world, are we ready to give back control to God to guides us with His astonishing Light into all things good and right for us?

God asks, “Are you ready for Me to guide you with My Light on your journey?”

As I read this psalm of truth, I remember a song I learned as a young adult that still plays in the background of my mind.  I remember the many times I had to give up control to let God throw His beam of Light on His path so I could finally see where He wanted me to go. 

Jesus is The Word made flesh who came to earth to throw the beam of God’s Light on the darkness.  Jesus brought God’s clarity of intention to the written Word of God.  The Word we read today is God’s Light for our path on the journey called “Life to the Full” as Jesus described;    

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”  –Jesus  (John 10,10, MSG) 

Turning to Jesus, believing and asking for forgiveness is the beginning or real life.  This is the beginning of Light Walking!

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12, NIV

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path

When I feel afraid
Think I’ve lost my way
Still you’re there right beside me
And nothing will I fear
As long as you are near
Please be near me to the end…

Are you ready for some Light Walking?  Let God’s Light guide your path.

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 14 – Psalm 119

105-112 By your words I can see where I’m going;
    they throw a beam of light on my dark path.
I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back
    from living by your righteous order.
Everything’s falling apart on me, God;
    put me together again with your Word.
Adorn me with your finest sayings, God;
    teach me your holy rules.
My life is as close as my own hands,
    but I don’t forget what you have revealed.
The wicked do their best to throw me off track,
    but I don’t swerve an inch from your course.
I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever—
    what a gift! And how happy it makes me!
I concentrate on doing exactly what you say—
    I always have and always will.

TRUTH:By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”

I will not forget
Your love for me and yet
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide
And hold me to your side
I will love you to the end

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path

Proverb 6:23, NIV

WISDOM: “For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.”

Abba, Father,

Thank you for Your Light that illuminates Truth.  Thank you for Your Light that dispels darkness so Your path is easily seen.  Help me continue Light Walking on life’s journey.  Your Word is a lamp to light my way to Your Path of salvation and right living.  Your Light shines a beam on those things that make we stumble in the dark.  Thank you, Lord.  You hold the Light, that’s not my task.  You are God and I am not. To you be all glory, honor and praise!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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WAY BEYOND BIBLE STUDY…

Jesus reprimanded the Pharasees and other religious zealots for knowledge of God’s law but not knowing the Author of the law.  Sometimes we, as believers, get all caught up in what God’s Word says.  We might use it to judge others and even worship the Bible as if this book was the source of praise.  That would defeat what God is saying.  Worship God alone, says His Word to us.  His Word leads us to hear Him.  God’s Word is our code of instructions for living in His ways.  But knowing His Word does not save us, only Jesus saves us by his work on the cross.

I remember my Grandma had so much respect for the Bible that nothing, absolutely nothing could be placed on top of it as it sat on her coffee table.  As a young, mischievous child, I challenged this behavior by laying the newspaper over it just to see how long it would take Grandma to come and move it.  As habit, Grandma would walk by in mere seconds and move the paper to one side.  After three times of putting various objects on top, she figured out what I was doing and just smiled with that twinkle in her eyes.  But because I had respect for her, I didn’t do that again.  Did she worship the Bible?  Absolutely not.  This book was opened each evening just before bedtime, read and prayed over as they asked God to forgive them.  What they learned from God, the Author became their guide for living the life God wanted.  Their prayers reflected their true worship of God, “the Author and finisher of our faith”, Grandpa quoted often.  You see, Grandpa and Grandma KNEW the Author well, therefore they respected what He wrote but they worshiped Him.

Never have there been so many tools available for serious Bible study, and we are grateful for them. However, the Word of God is unlike any other book: we must be on good terms with the Author if we are to learn from what He has written. Our relationship to the Lord is determined by our relationship to His will, and that is determined by how we relate to His Word. Too many believers have only academic head knowledge of the Word, but they do not know how to put this knowledge into practice in the decisions of daily life. This is the difference between having a “Biblical worldview” as opposed to a worldview without God’s input in our behavior.  What we all need is a heart knowledge of the Word, and this means being taught by God.

Here are the conditions we must meet:

We must love His Word and meditate on it (vv. 97-100). We enjoy thinking about people and activities that we love, and meditation means loving the Lord by pondering His Word and allowing its truths to penetrate our hearts. This means that our minds and hearts are so yielded to the Spirit that He can remind us of the Word when we need it and give us fresh understanding in the new challenges we face.

We must obey His Word (vv. 101-102). A true student of the Word is not a person with a big head, full of all sorts of knowledge, but one who has an obedient heart and loves to do God’s will. While God’s truth is food for our souls, it is not a “buffet” from which we select only the things we like. If the Bible tells us something is wrong, we stay off that path. If God tells us something is right, we do not abandon it.

We must enjoy His Word (vv. 103-104). Honey would be the sweetest thing the psalmist could taste, as stated in other translations. However, the Word contains both sweetness and bitterness, and we must learn to receive both.  God’s Word is pure, not defiled, and gives us the sweetness and energy we need to obey His commands. The unsaved person finds the Bible boring, but the devoted child of God feeds on the Scriptures and enjoys the sweet taste of truth.

This is what it means to go beyond Bible study.

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 13 – Psalm 119, The Message

97-104 Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed;
    I reverently ponder it all the day long.
Your commands give me an edge on my enemies;
    they never become obsolete.
I’ve even become smarter than my teachers
    since I’ve pondered and absorbed your counsel.
I’ve become wiser than the wise old sages
    simply by doing what you tell me.
I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil
    so I can spend all my time keeping your Word.
I never make detours from the route you laid out;
    you gave me such good directions.
Your words are so choice, so tasty;
    I prefer them to the best home cooking.
With your instruction, I understand life;
    that’s why I hate false propaganda.

TRUTH: “With your instruction, I understand life; that’s why I hate false propaganda.”

Proverb 2:2-5, The Message

Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

WISDOM: “Set your heart on a life of Understanding.” 

Abba, Father,

Thank you for your Word that speaks volumes to my soul and nourishes my mind and heart all day long and into the night.  But I worship only You, the Author of Your Word.  Your word, with the help of Your Holy Spirit in us, guides us into all Truth.  Your Word comforts, affirms, convicts, corrects, and challenges us.  Your Word is YOUR story.  When we look for You in Your Word, we find You every time.  Thank you for guiding people who loved and worshiped you to write down your story. Thank you for wisdom, the skills for living, that teaches us your ways and how to navigate this world while preparing for life eternal with you.  We definitely know when we get it right and how to correct when we get it wrong.  Thank you for revealing yourself to us through your Word.  Yes, knowing You, the Author, goes way beyond mere Bible Study.  Hallelujah!

In Jesus Name, Amen

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WHAT YOU SAY GOES!

Think of that person in your world that you look up to so much that you want be where they are and do what they do?  When they walk into the room, your eyes light up and your heart skips a beat?  Who was this person in your childhood?  Why did you want to be with this person?  What drew you to them? 

Depending on how mature you are, you were probably impressed with admiration for many different people like this in your life’s journey.  For me, it was my Grandpa.  As a child, I wanted to be everywhere he went.  I would get up early, before the sun, just so I could be with him and do what he did.  I would follow along, right at his heels, to feed the livestock, hear him call the cattle in French, talk coaxing words to the animals in his care as they ate.  He never got tired of answering my endless questions as he worked.  He always allowed me to help in some way.  Sometimes he sang his favorite hymns as we worked and I would join in.  He made dirty, hard work seem fun.  I thought all this was a hobby for him, because he was also a carpenter after the chores!

We would finish the early chores, wash up and come to a table of biscuits, bacon and eggs fresh from the farm made with love by Grandma.  Automatically, heads were bowed before the fork was raised, to pray.  Typically, it was Grandpa who prayed. Grandpa always closed with “…and may this food be used for your juice”.  Wait, what?  “Juice”?  God makes juice?  I finally figure out, much later, what he was really saying, “and may this food be used for your intended use.”  Ah, that makes more sense.  Sometimes we have to grow up a little more to understand the meaning of what our admired person is really saying. 

Today, I can recall many mentors in my life who came alongside me to aid in my growing up years. But the One I admire most and rise early to be with is God, the Father.  Grandpa taught me to love and look to God for all of life. “What God says goes”, sings the Psalmist. 

God’s love, commands for our best, truth, mercy and grace are still as relevant for today as it was at Creation.  He never goes out of fashion.  God is not just a blip or trend for the moment, but He is Truth forever and ever. Amen.  I want to be where He is and do what He wants because God’s love never fails and never gives up on me.  My worship, awe, respect and love go beyond the admiration I had for my Grandpa, which was great.  All that I am is all for God.  God knows all and has a plan for me.  He is my Father in heaven because His Son saved my soul.  His Holy Spirit guides, corrects, challenges and leads me.  I need God every hour of every day.  I praise God for He goes beyond the limits of human love and wisdom.  I’m a mess at times, but He still loves and cares for me.  I may not always hear exactly what He is saying, but I am leaning in to listen, praying for understanding.

Yes, what you say goes, God!

Wisdom and Worship, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 12 – Psalm 119, The Message

89-96 What you say goes, God,
    and stays, as permanent as the heavens.
Your truth never goes out of fashion;
    it’s as relevant as the earth when the sun comes up.
Your Word and truth are dependable as ever;
    that’s what you ordered—you set the earth going.
If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so,
    I would have given up when the hard times came.
But I’ll never forget the advice you gave me;
    you saved my life with those wise words.
Save me! I’m all yours.
    I look high and low for your words of wisdom.
The wicked lie in ambush to destroy me,
    but I’m only concerned with your plans for me.
I see the limits to everything human,
    but the horizons can’t contain your commands!

TRUTH: “I’m only concerned with your plans for me.”  “I see the limits to everything human, but the horizons can’t contain your commands!”  What you say goes!

Proverb 1:7, The Message

WISDOM: “Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.”

Abba, Father,

Thank you for bringing me into your family to receive all you are and all you have for me.  I am your child, your servant and your beloved.  You are the One and Only that I You are the One I love first, admire and respect most and want to be with more than anyone on earth for you are God!  Thank you for listening to my questions and wonderings.  Thank you for forgiving my missteps.  Thank you for loving me the way you do.  What do you want?  Where do you want me to go and what do you want me to do today? I know your agenda for me is already planned out and trumps my agenda.  Help me to read and follow your plan with understanding, wisdom and insight.  Give me courage to go where you invite me to follow.

In Jesus Name, Amen

And we’re singing…

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God, yes, I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God, yes, I am

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GET A GRIP…AND DON’T LET GO!

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me…

This song, by Matt Redman, is the background music for our psalm today. But I wonder if my grip on God and His Word is as strong as His grip on me.  It should be, for God is all I need and everything I long for in my life.  He is Love.  He is Healer, Protector and Provider.  He is God.

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me…

The Psalmist’s Faith and Patience. The focus is on the responses of the believer while he waited for the Lord to judge his enemies and deliver him from persecution and danger. His oppressors were also the enemies of the Lord and of Israel, so his concern was more than personal. Satan has been seeking to exterminate the Jews since the time the nation was in Egypt, and he will continue until the end times (Rev. 12). The Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and we must expect troubles of this world so we are prepared for them with Jesus! (John 16:33)

So that’s why WE don’t lose our grip, never letting go, of the power, counsel, love, mercy and grace of our Lord.  Jesus is our Savior, Lord and eternal Hope.  God is our Father who loves us.

The writer’s inner person was exhausted from longing for God to work. His eyes were strained from watching for some evidence of His presence. He felt like a dried-up wineskin that had been thrown aside as useless. However, he never gave up hope, for no matter how dark the hour, the future is our friend because Jesus is our Lord. “It is always too soon to quit” (V. Raymond Edman).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9, NIV

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” — Isaiah 40:31

Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me
Oh, You never let go, You never let go

Worship and Wisdom, Psalms and Proverbs

Part 11 – Psalm 119, The Message

81-88 I’m homesick—longing for your salvation;
    I’m waiting for your word of hope.
My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise;
    how long must I wait for your comfort?
There’s smoke in my eyes—they burn and water,
    but I keep a steady gaze on the instructions you post.
How long do I have to put up with all this?
    How long till you haul my tormentors into court?
The arrogant godless try to throw me off track,
    ignorant as they are of God and his ways.
Everything you command is a sure thing,
    but they harass me with lies. Help!
They’ve pushed and pushed—they never let up—
    but I haven’t relaxed my grip on your counsel.
In your great love revive me
    so I can alertly obey your every word.

TRUTH:  Never let go.  God never lets go of us.  Our grip on His counsel is life.  His great love is our hope.  “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, is to trust and obey”.  (Old hymn of truth.)

Proverb 3:3-6, The Message

WISDOM: “Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
    Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
    in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.

5-12 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

Abba Father,

Thank you for saving my soul and never letting go!  Thank you for your continuous challenges so I will grow and mature in your character.  Thank you for your loving faithfulness and enduring patience with me.  Thank you for bending low to listen then speaking words of wisdom into my heart that revive my spirit and restore my joy of your salvation.  Thank you for Your Word that speaks volumes to me each morning.  Now, help me to hang on with a firm grip on You, to live what I learn.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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